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It’s May!

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The Past Decade in Horror, Part 1

By Andreas

It’s list-making time again! The alliteration-loving Marvin the Macabre over at The Montana Mancave Massacre has challenged horror bloggers to name their top 10 horror movies of the past 10 years. So of course, we had to do it. (I came up with a similar list of 20 horror faves from all time periods back in October.) You can expect Ashley’s top 10 sometime soon; in the meantime, here’s mine: ten rewatchable, well-made movies, and the best that recent horror has to offer.

10. Splice (Vincenzo Natali, 2010)

I found a lot to dislike in the bioethical child-rearing allegory Splice: it adopts a lot of horror cliches without taking them anywhere; its writing is only clever in spates; and it goes completely off the rails at the end. But it’s got terrific special effects (especially in the creation of its monster, Dren) and when it’s darkly funny, it really the mark. That, plus its icy blue/green color palette and Adrien Brody’s hotness, sneaks it onto my list at #10.

9. Seed of Chucky (Don Mancini, 2004)

So many slasher sequels of the past decade have been formulaic, low-quality retreads. Hence why Seed of Chucky is such a breath of fresh air: it revels in its franchise’s inherent absurdity, piling meta-jokes and gory self-parody on top of its “killer doll on a rampage” premise. Turning the Child’s Play set-up inside out, Hollywood-style, is oodles of fun—as is seeing Jennifer Tilly finally get her equivalent of Being John Malkovich.

8. Coraline (Henry Selick, 2009)

You can call it “children’s fantasy” all you want; I’m telling you, Coraline is an animated horror movie. The title character’s dream-turned-nightmare constitutes one of the decade’s most imaginative horror landscapes, and there’s no villain quite like the Other Mother, voiced with menacing sweetness by Teri Hatcher. Selick’s fluid stop-motion artistry and Neil Gaiman’s very scary novel turned out to be a match made in horror heaven.

7. Pontypool (Bruce McDonald, 2009)

No zombie movie of the 2000s (and there were a lot of them) had a twist quite as original as Pontypool‘s: here, the vector of disease isn’t saliva or blood, but words. Set in a claustrophobic radio station off in rural Ontario, the film milks all the terror it can out of talk radio call-ins—bleak audio-only testimonies to the increasingly violent havoc outside. The terror is counterbalanced only by the rough, reliable growl of Stephen McHattie, giving a powerful performance as a hotshot DJ trying to keep cool. Semiotic horror: that’s something you don’t see everyday.


6. The Host (Bong Joon-ho, 2006)

This Korean monster movie casts off the genre straitjacket from the very beginning, and fearlessly mixes slapstick, tragedy, and anti-imperialist critique to tell the story of one family’s vendetta against a giant fish monster. Strange, stylish, and spectacular, The Host rewrites the rules of kaiju cinema while playing the audience’s heartstrings like a giant killer harp.

5. [REC] (Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, 2007)

Handheld Blair Witch rip-offs are a dime a dozen these days. Literally: they’re cheap to shoot, and often profitable. (See: Paranormal Activity.) But [REC] takes the caught-on-tape aesthetic into new territory, bringing the audience right into the heart of a quarantined zombie outbreak. It’s ceaselessly visceral and inventive, and introduces reporter Angela Vidal, one of my favorite recent final girls. Few movies beat [REC] when it comes to inducing raw, physical fear. (Not even [REC] 2, though it certainly tried.)

4. May (Lucky McKee, 2002)

I’m not shy about my love of May. I did write 1/4 of my senior thesis about it, after all. It’s a quirky, cute, romantic, gruesome, twisted, bloody, perverse indie horror confection, melding Frankenstein and Repulsion with something Zooey Deschanel might star in. It’s the bittersweet tale of an obsessive, attractive misfit and the lengths she goes to for love. It’s really, really good! Essential viewing if you’re interested in horror of the past decade, or any time.

3. Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)

For many stupid reasons, art films like Caché that debut at Cannes are rarely seen as authentic horror. But it is! It so is, and it’s one of the eeriest, most disturbing horror movies of the 2000s. It only has a single scene of actual gore, but that’s nothing compared to the lingering unease and uncertainty instilled by the rest of the movie. Who sent those tapes and letters, utterly destroying the Laurent family’s bourgeois comfort? It’s a question that persists after countless gratuitous slasher deaths have faded.

2. 28 Days Later… (Danny Boyle, 2002)

Boyle’s vision of post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested England is an elegy to a vanishing way of life (i.e., humanity). A hardy quartet of survivors make an arduous cross-country trek, punctuated both by bursts of violence and rare moments of beauty. In such a ruined world, 28 Days Later asks, can any altruism or compassion bloom? For all its brutality, it’s an unusually tender horror movie, with stars Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris doing very subtle, striking work. This is the new millennium’s gold standard of what a zombie movie can look like.

1. Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)

Really, what else could top this list? Not a single misstep mars Alfredson’s note-perfect adaptation of John Lindqvist’s young-love vampire novel. Sweet, delicate, and shockingly violent, Let the Right One In is as cool and crystalline as a snowflake. Oskar and Eli’s bizarre relationship is a refuge for two abused outsiders, two kids just trying to make a go of it in this hard world. It’s a theme we can all relate to and, in Alfredson’s gentle hands, it’s also the most beautiful, unforgettable horror movie of the 21st century.

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Gender, Sympathy, and the “Monstrous Hero”

By Andreas

Forever ago (i.e., last October), I wrote about my horror-centric comps project. I planned to analyze Cat People, The Haunting, Carrie, and May to glean what each film had to say about female sexuality, and how these ideas manifested themselves stylistically. Well, over the past few months, I wrote that 30-page paper, revised it twice, gave a public presentation on it, and now the process is done! So, just in case you’re really eager to read a mammoth research paper about these movies, I give you my comps paper: “Gender, Sympathy, and the ‘Monstrous Hero’ in the American Horror Film.”

After the jump, read over 8,000 words of theory and textual analysis on horror and sexuality…

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Link Dump: #19

As you may have noticed, Pussy Goes Grrr has been postless for almost a solid week. The reasons for this are twofold: 1) Ashley’s classes recently started and 2) I am still buried, à la Ted Danson in Creepshow, in my 25-page comps (i.e., giant senior project) on female sexuality in horror. But never fear! Starting probably next week, we’ll have some new, exciting blogging surprises in store for you. Potentially including something really, really awesome. Be sure to tune in and find out! (I love talking about the Internet like it’s a radio.)

In other news, Angela Bettis plays a great neurotic/psychotic in May (2002), which is what 1/4 of my comps is about, but Anna Faris as her lesbian coworker is just so goofy and lovable that she steals every scene she’s in. She’s the malapropism-wielding yang to May’s awkward, understated yin. “Do you like pussy… cats?” That should be this blog’s motto. That said, here are some links:

  • William Ahearn writes extensively about the origins of the term “film noir.”
  • Simon Hattenstone of The Guardian profiles influential (and awesome) feminist artist Cindy Sherman.
  • Not Coming to a Theater Near You has a piece on private eye movies of the 1970s, when Elliott Gould was the new Bogart.
  • EdenCafe gives us “Self-Love, Sex Toys, and Men,” which could also be titled “How NOT to Write About Sex Toys.” It’s comically atrocious, and inane enough to make an entertaining read.
  • Speaking of horrible things, Family Research Council leader Tony Perkins wants you to know that The Kids Are All Right sucks because it didn’t make enough money, and it’s about lesbians. Also the Golden Globes are evil. And MLK apparently agrees with him.
  • After making a jackass of himself at the NYFCC awards last week, professional martyr Armond White explains in voluminous, self-aggrandizing detail why he has been wronged. By the Internet, naturally. Then J. Hoberman responds. (If you can’t tell, I’m not a fan of White’s personality or his obfuscation-happy criticism.)
  • Gasp! Breaking news: Archie Comics is dropping the Comics Code Authority seal of approval from its products! Tony Perkins was right; the liberals are destroying American culture!

We had so many wacky search terms this week that I had to prune the list. We can’t just let any ol’ search term into the hall of shame, like the unimpressive “frog vag,” “leg cast fucking,” or “best looking vagina in 2010.” No, they had to be extra weird this week. Some I picked because of the phrasings: “you might gonna get raped maybe” sounds so indecisive that it renders itself meaningless, while “nope can’t go to hell,” with its unpunctuated urgency, makes me imagine a sequel to Rain Man where Dustin Hoffman travels to the underworld – flying Qantas, I assume.

From the “Bizarre Free Association” Department comes “bus ride,clit,” and we have another oddity that combines bad grammar and redundancy, “she are fucking a female cow.” The last (and best?) brings together unbelievable vileness, forcefulness, and length, and wins our Yuckiest Search Terms of the Week award (I guess), because it’s “i am going to hold you and that dog is going to fuck your pussie video.”

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Let’s study some horror movies!

Time for a little personal information that’s very relevant to horror cinema! So: as you may know (if you’ve read our About page), I am a Cinema & Media Studies major at a small liberal arts college who’s only months away from graduation. In order to graduate, every student here has to do a comprehensive senior project – colloquially known as “comps.” Well, I submitted my proposal a few weeks ago, it was accepted, I met with the faculty committee today, and it’s decided: I’m compsing on horror movies!

Tentatively entitled “The Sexual Dynamics of American Horror Films, 1942-2002,” my comps project goes into a lot of the same subject matter that I regularly tackle here at Pussy Goes Grrr. Here’s my abstract, summing up what I plan to research:

Basing my arguments theoretically in the work of Barbara Creed, Carol J. Clover, and other horror film scholars, I will perform a close analysis of four horror films, each of which links violence with female sexuality. By comparing the natures of these links, I will reach conclusions about the representations of femininity within the horror genre.

Those four films are the ones you see above: Cat People, The Haunting, Carrie, and May! The finished paper will be 25-30 pages long, and so the next five months will be filled with hard work (and possibly diminished blogging), but hey, those are the costs of success in academia. (OK: that, and about $50,000 a year.) I’m super-excited to get working on it! I love studying the things I love!

In conclusion, thanks for being a reader. This blog has certainly played a big role in getting me to this point, and your interest and support have been crucial. Hearts and kisses for everyone!

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